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Up & Atom

The NRC recently held a meeting to discuss the path forward on its plans to address inconsistencies between the two primary licensing paths for new reactors. The agency estimates that its streamlining effort will result in net averted costs to industry and the NRC of tens of millions of dollars. Comments on the first phase of this undertaking are due in April, and interested stakeholders should consider taking advantage of this opportunity to influence agency policy.


In 2015, the Commission approved the NRC Staff’s plan (SECY-15-0002) to revise its reactor licensing provisions in 10 CFR Part 50, which uses a two-step reactor licensing process (Construction Permit and Operating License), and 10 CFR Part 52, which offers one-step licensing (Combined Operating License). The revisions are intended to better align requirements between the two parts and to incorporate “lessons learned” from past licensing actions.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, the Staff held various meetings with stakeholders and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards to consider the proper scope of the alignment and modernization effort, and worked to develop the regulatory basis for the rulemaking. The regulatory basis document was made available to the public in January 2021. In early March, the agency hosted a meeting to discuss the document and its initial scoping conclusions.

Current Scope and Status

The regulatory basis document identified 50 in-scope items for consideration as part of the alignment and update effort. As currently envisioned by the Staff, this project would involve rulemakings for 43 of those items; updates to 17 guidance documents; and changes to 9 separate parts of 10 CFR. Notably, this undertaking does not involve a comprehensive review of Parts 50 and 52 for their suitability or applicability to non–light water reactor technologies, which is covered by a separate rulemaking effort related to 10 CFR Part 53.

Overall, the Staff concluded that sufficient regulatory bases exist to continue with rulemaking and/or guidance development in the following areas, which are discussed in further detail in separate appendices to the regulatory basis document:

  • Appendix A: Policy Statement on Severe Reactor Accidents
  • Appendix B: Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA)
  • Appendix C: Three Mile Island (TMI) Requirements
  • Appendix D: Fire Protection Design Features and Fire Protection Plans
  • Appendix E: Operator Licensing
  • Appendix F: Physical Security (Section 1) and Fitness for Duty (Section 2)
  • Appendix G: Emergency Planning
  • Appendix H: Part 52 Licensing Process (e.g., Design Certification Changes & Renewal)
  • Appendix I: Environmental Review
  • Appendix J: Other Regulatory Interfaces
  • Appendix K: Miscellaneous Topics

Next Steps

The comment period on the regulatory basis document is now open, and comments are due by April 14, 2021. Stakeholders interested in shaping the future of Parts 50 and 52 should consider submitting written comments on the rulemaking docket. Once the comment period closes, the Staff will begin drafting the proposed rule language.

Under the current schedule, the Staff anticipates submitting the proposed rule to the Commission in May 2022, and ultimately publishing a final rule by October 2024. Morgan Lewis will continue to monitor this effort and report on significant developments.